Cape Town – The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) is seeking a meeting with the SABC management to get a deeper understanding of its restructuring plans and vision for the future.
Even though it noted that Section 189 notices to the newsroom staff have temporarily been withdrawn, it said in a statement on Tuesday it is concerned about the instability at the SABC after the announcement of impending retrenchments.
As part of its turnaround strategy, the SABC announced this week it would retrench 400 of its almost 3 000 employees. Newsroom staff are also affected.
Apart from the layoffs, the SABC also stated it would freeze salary increases for the next three years.
Earlier in the year it forecast that it might have to lay off 600 jobs for its own survival. The SABC's salary bill represents more than half its revenue and 45% of its expenditure.
’’Sanef calls on the SABC leadership to continue to fulfil its public mandate by ensuring that its budget cuts do not curtail a number of critical services, including its African language and regional programming.
’’We call for the SABC to ring-fence core news and current affairs posts and not compromise its core public mandate of news delivery,“ Sanef said.
Highlighting that since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the coronavirus pandemic a national disaster on March 23, more than 700 jobs have been lost in the media industry.
’’In the first two months of the lockdown, we saw the closure of two magazine publishers and 80 small print publications operating across the country.
'’Sanef notes with deep concern that in many newsrooms around the country, journalists are simply not replaced, resulting in a diminished capacity to cover the length and breadth of the country.
’’With the prevailing tough economic conditions, advertising revenue has declined dramatically, and the bulk of digital advertising revenue leaves the country's shores to Facebook and Google.
’’It is not just the Covid-19 crisis that has decimated the media sector. In the past three years, scores of journalists lost their jobs due to retrenchments by the then Tiso Blackstar, Media24, Independent Media and the shutdown of Afro Worldview, previously known as ANN7, by MultiChoice. Titles like The Times and HuffPost SA were closed, which diminished the diversity of voices in South Africa.
’’We call on media owners to think creatively and responsibly about implementing new, sustainable business models, built on the integrity and the trust that our readers, viewers and listeners place in us to tell the country's stories without fear or favour.’’